Thirty-six years ago, as a senior in High School, I took my first (and only) art class.
Sure, I’d made art in elementary school, but my “art” was never notable and nobody told me I showed any particular display of talent. I was a color-inside-the-lines sort of kid.
Life somehow felt safer that way.
I’d put off taking the college-prep required art class until the very last semester of High School. I preferred science and literature, but truthfully, I was secretly looking forward to turning eighteen so I could drink – legally, that is – and anticipated breaking out of my small town good-girl, smart-girl reputation. I had, after all, been voted “class brain” for the yearbook. Only because, in relationship to the rest of the 130 or so members of my graduating class, I studied more than I partied.
Yes, I dreaded the required art class more than any other. More than the Spanish class taught by a mumbling French-Canadian, more than reading The Illiad in Latin, and more than Trigonometry with the wrestling coach.
Suddenly, instead of textbooks, I had pencils of all different numbers, drawing pads, special ink pens, paints in little metal tubes and brushes with real wooden handles. On the first day of class, a vase and an apple were set up before us on a sheet-covered stool.
DRAW, the teacher said.
I only knew how to color inside lines other people drew for me.
That was true in art, and in life.
My guts torqued every time I looked at the other student’s creations. They “got it,” they loved it, and they were always better than me. I knew it, but she didn’t care. She was a visionary –a true artist who always saw what could be created, not what was.
And mysteriously, despite my woefully inadequate beginner attempts, she BELIEVED in me.
So I kept trying . . .
And one day, I picked up my pens and pencils and drew wild and messy and brave like she told me to.
And I liked it.
I discovered something beyond where life was just a set of equations waiting to be solved.
I experienced deep breaths, and beauty, and the reckless pursuit of creative expression.
It all felt so out of control, so wrong and self-centered, that I convinced myself that’s all it was – an addiction that had no purpose – other than to turn my orderly, safe, inside-the-lines life on its head.
So when my art teacher asked for a meeting near the end of class one day, I knew what she was going to say . . .
(“Nice try Linda. I wish you the best in your future career in science.”)
I kept my head down as she started to talk, focusing on my broken fingernails.
“I think it’s a shame that you never had an art class before now.”
“I think you have a natural talent that’s never had a chance to be developed.”
What????? You’ve got to be kidding me! I look up and directly into her blue eyes looking intently into my green.
“In fact, I believe in you so much that I would be willing to work with you for free all summer to help you prepare a portfolio to apply to art school.”
Who was she talking about? It wasn’t the me I knew. Couldn’t she see the real me in my eyes? I was going to college to study CHEMISTRY!
And it was, for one semester of college. Until I discovered a hatred for Calculus and Organic Chemistry, and found my sorry self taking pottery class and eating hamburgers and fries instead of studying my second semester. And then I ran away with my boyfriend, of course, because that’s what you did back then when you were 19 and you didn’t want to be who you were. When you didn’t know who you were. Or who God was.
I picked up my pens and pencils just a few times after that art class. The pictures here are the only history that somehow survived my purging, twenty-some years ago, of my broken mess of a past. I”m grateful my brother found them a few months ago. They help me remember.
That class, that teacher, tried to mess up my life.
If only I’d been willing to get messy.
It’s time to get messy. To learn to breathe in and out, inside the creative being God made me to be.
It’s time to be BRAVE. To dare to finally embrace the joy of living outside my boundary lines of fear.
It’s time to dare to be a beginner. Again. And love myself, instead of curse myself for the mistakes and wobbly lines and imperfect mess of it all.
It’s time. It’s about time.
So I tell my 18 year-old, fraidy-cat self, “Linda, wake up, look up, and see what God’s eyes see. Love yourself enough to let yourself be who He sees.“
I am not who I thought I was.
And I can become who He created me to be.
Life is Beautiful. It deserves all the messy, imperfect, joy-filled-coloring-outside-the-lines I can praise it with.
Every blog post I write this year will have some piece of art I create with it. It will be awkward, possibly awful, but I also know it will always be beautiful to my Daddy’s eyes. And in His eyes alone, I am found.
Won’t you join me? Let’s take our abandoned creative selves out of the closet, dust ourselves off and give ourselves permission to get messy, crazy, in love with the beauty of life!
Praying for you, and your creative, messy-in-love-with-Jesus self. Be brave in His love!